Keeping Student Athletes Safe

By William Habermehl

A 16-year-old male athlete succumbed to heat exhaustion during the first day of football practice, making him the fourth student to die suddenly in California’s Orange County within six months.

The coaching staff did everything possible on that August 2007 day, and the Orange County Fire Authority paramedics were on the scene within minutes. Despite their efforts, the student died on the way to the hospital.

What was going on? We had gone through a long period with no deaths, and then within a short period four students died while participating in athletic programs. Orange County has 27 school districts serving 500,000 students. We have more than 70 high schools, including private and parochial. Thousands of our students participate in sports each year while at school, in club sports, and in after-school programs.

The deaths of these four student athletes served as the catalyst for us to join an already existing program that has the potential to save young lives -- Life-threatening Events Associated with Pediatric Sports (LEAPS). The initiative has brought together people from the fields of medicine, education, and fire and paramedic services to further examine and prevent more deaths of student athletes in Orange County.

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